Cricket 19: Caught in the Middle… sex!

For our final preparation ahead of our Test debut we had a big decision to make…

Do we play our best team, providing those players with the opportunity to gain valuable experience of playing at Lords and spending more time together on the field as a unit?

Or…

Do we wrap our best players up in cotton wool, breed competition and answer some questions regarding the one or two places in the team still up for grabs?

We chose the latter. Our team was as follows:

Enzo Petit, Omar Sissoko, Youssef Rizvi, Gabin Sauvage, Timothee Clement, Zvonimir Pitko, Maxime Bernard (C&W), Paco Georges, Phillipe La Roux (2) Louis Martin (1), Mehdi Qadri

After a shower sprinkled the field of play Maxime Bernard won the toss and without hesitation chose to bowl. Debutant new ball pair Louis Martin and Phillipe La Roux were licking their lips at the lush green deck provided to them. By the time lunch arrived both players had made a case for Test selection. La Roux trapped Sam Robson (A Test centurion don’t forget!) LBW for 17 having already had an appeal incorrectly rejected.

Martin then accounted for Nick Gubbins (3) via a brute of a delivery that Bernard held comfortably.

A period of frustration ensued before Paco Georges got in on the act when he bowled Stevie Eskinazi (34) off his pads. The enthusiasm for wicket-taking was infectious and soon Gabin ‘Jacques Kallis’ Sauvage shattered Martin Andersson’s (2) stumps.

Batsman Timothee Clement (1-20) did his chances of a Test call-up no harm by tempting John Simpson (7) to inside edge onto his stumps in his first over… in First Class cricket… at Lords! That made it five wickets by five different bowlers.

Max Holden and James Harris then survived numerous scares particularly from leg-spin demon Mehdi Qadri. Middlesex reached 257-5 (A partnership of 90) at close of play with the new ball imminent.

With his first delivery on the second day La Roux toppled Harris’ (35) stumps and Martin (2-48) soon accounted for Roland-Jones (3) in a high-quality display of new ball bowling. Tim Murtagh resisted alongside Holden however. The experienced Irishman benefited from a dolly of a drop by Bernard off the luckless Sauvage. It was in 1640 that Nicolas Sauvage opened the first taxi company. Gabin Sauvage (1-39) may well have wanted his stand-in skipper to flag one down for him when he saw the ball fall from his gloves and hit the turf!

Paco Georges responded to Holden’s upping of the tempo and boundary filled batting by forcing the opener to nick to Sissoko at slip. It was a sharp catch by Sissoko to terminate Holden’s magnificent knock of 193. Frenchman Phillipe Kahn invented the camera phone and spectators click click clicked on their devices as Holden soaked up the crowd’s adulation.

The following delivery Georges (2-103) enticed Sowter to edge through the slips and that brought with it the end of the session with the lord of the manors on 314-8. At first we thought the hosts were declaring but that wasn’t the case.

After the resumption Qadri (26-7-41-1) bowled fellow leg-spinner Sowter (14) with a stunning googly before La Roux, having claimed a wicket with his first delivery of the day, struck in the first over of a new spell to end Murtagh’s (35) vigil and conclude the innings. La Roux’s debut figures of 19.5-0-71-3 were an encouraging if slightly expensive start to his career.

Having reduced the home side to 167-5 to concede 363 and be out in the field for so long was frustrating. Their tactics of continuing to bat in a rain-affected three-day fixture was disappointing both for us but particularly for entertainment-seeking fans.

Our opening duo of Enzo Petit and Omar Sissoko negated two overs unscathed so that we reached tea on day two with all ten wickets in hand. You sensed that the last thing Sissoko needed was a break in play and so it proved. The cluttered mind that had been so pronounced in recent innings reared its ugly head and to the first ball of the day’s final session, a short pitched delivery, an attempted pull went predictably and familiarly wrong. A score of 12 was enough to put an end to a run of five consecutive innings without reaching double figures but not sufficient to secure a Test debut. By the time drinks came Petit and debutant Youssef Rizvi had propelled the score to 83-1 and put their Test aspirations in far more promising positions than the serially struggling Sissoko.

Post pause Petit and Rizvi progressed to 106-1 before Petit got giddy having despatched spinner Sowter into the stands for a maximum.

The right-hander was ingloriously bowled through his legs for 58 the very next delivery. He’d applied himself superbly though and almost certainly cemented his place in the line-up for our inaugural Test match. Sadly Petit’s demise prompted an all too familiar middle order collapse as 106-1 slumped to 116-6, a collapse of 10-5! Rizvi (36) was beaten by a good delivery but Sauvage (5), Clement (0) and Pitko (2) all failed to cover themselves in glory. Bernard (12) and Georges (17) entertained briefly but Sowter (6-38) continued to claim wickets with alarming regularity. Having subsided to 152-8 La Roux (16*) and Martin (17*) lifted us to 180-8 at the second day’s end. At best the pair were competing for one bowling spot in the team so a significant batting contribution could’ve been vital to their chances of making the XI when we revisit Lords to take on England.

Yet again it had been a sense of deja vu and with rain delaying the start of play for a third consecutive day our batsmen were left sweating as to whether or not they would get another opportunity… so we declared… and were made to follow-on! Middlesex were obviously trying to win the game but we appreciated them refraining from being awkward.

With less than one over of our second innings on the scoreboard need I tell you what happened?

Sissoko (3) presented a leading edge to bowler Tim Murtagh (1-68) and his Test dreams were extinguished… for now at least.

Rizvi (6) pushed hard at a delivery from Roland-Jones (2-48) to be caught in the slips and Sauvage (12) played down the wrong line resulting in his stumps being rearranged. It was a disappointing showing with the bat in this match for Sauvage having performed well against Yorkshire.

Petit picked up where he left off in the first innings and Clement avoided the ignominy of a king pair on First Class debut.

The duo batted with a hint of swagger to rescue the score from 36-3 to 93-3 at lunch on the final day. We still required another 90 runs to make Middlesex bat again.

Far too predictably spin soon proved our downfall. Just when he was pushing his case for Test selection, Timothee Clement (24) nicked behind off the first ball he faced from Sowter (4-49). Zvonimir Pitko steadied the ship but Enzo Petit (59) could only go one better than his first innings score. Petit had set the standard for other batsmen to follow though.

Bernard (10), Georges (16) and La Roux (20) all made contributions of sorts as we chalked up 217-8. With one session remaining the lead was 34. Could we hold out for a draw?

Pitko (58) and Martin (4*) battened down the hatches and the overs ticked by before the former fell to the 100th delivery that he faced. Qadri (0) was also bowled next ball by Harris (2-8) to leave Middlesex needing 43 runs to win and plenty of time to do it.

We opened with spin but it was Georges (1-12) and Sauvage (1-11) who accounted for Robson (12) and Gubbins (19). The less said about an all-run 5 to level the scores the better as Middlesex secured an eight-wicket win.

Despite another defeat there were some huge positives for our team. Petit, Rizvi, Clement and Pitko all made contributions with the bat while debutant quick bowlers La Roux and Martin made encouraging outings with the ball. There are some tough decisions to be made in regards to our playing XI for our inaugural Test match.

It’s been one hundred and twenty years since our nation claimed the silver medal at the 1900 Summer Olympic Games. There are 120 deliveries in a Twenty20 match but it’s the limitless possibilities of Test match cricket that await the current generation of French cricketers. Fill the cafetière, butter your croissant and smell the camembert. Fingers crossed that one of our batsman can score 120 against the mighty England at Lords!

Cricket Captain 2018: Personal Milestones

The year is 2032 and Alastair Cook need not sweat!

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The run-getting of captain Max Holden has been integral to England’s Test success. An unfortunate recent habit of getting run out, including twice in a sensational Ashes series victory in Australia, have contributed to his average returning to something near mortality. Not that long ago it exceeded sixty!

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Occasional gloveman Ollie Pope has been another reliable run getter. His conversion rate is particularly impressive and had until recently helped him maintain an average just shy of fifty.

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Sam Hain has also piled on the runs, not just in Tests but in ODIs and more recently T20Is as well. Like Pope, Hain’s Test conversion rate is outstanding as is the case for him in ODI cricket. Hain is England’s leading run-scorer ever in the fifty-over format.

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Joe Clarke, who like Pope has been known to don the gloves, has also chalked up plenty of runs if not quite finding the consistency he would’ve liked.

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Sam Curran’s averages might be a little disappointing but he’s been a crucial impact player and continues to improve with bat and ball in all formats of the game. He reached 200 Test wickets in the same innings as Josh Tongue who we’ll come to later.

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Spin-bowling all-rounder Brad Taylor…

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… and wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall, are two players who have been known to really step up to the plate when the chips have been down!

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After a woeful start to his international career, Matt Critchley silenced the doubters by going onto become one of England’s most reliable middle order Test batsman!

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Josh Tongue had to wait patiently whilst Jamie Porter (180) and Ben Coad (233) assumed the mantle from James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Now though Tongue has in excess of 200 wickets at both Test and ODI level as well as nearing 100 victims in T20Is. He’s some way ahead of second placed Jofra Archer (82) as England’s leading wicket-taker in the shortest format.

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Spinner Matthew Parkinson’s star had appeared to wane but he’s upped his performances once again to attain 665 Test wickets. That puts him ahead of James Anderson at the top of England’s all-time list of Test wicket-takers. He’s also performed effectively in white-ball cricket despite his workload been managed over the years. Parkinson has relegated the unfortunate Dom Bess (287 wickets @ 28.76) to the role of Stuart MacGill to his own Shane Warne.

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Tom Kohler-Cadmore is England’s leading run-scored in T20I cricket and has been known to really turn it on at World Cups both in T20I and ODI cricket. Like the next man we’ll come too, his averages have dipped over time but a renaissance in the twilight of his career has been welcome..

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Alongside TK-C at the top of the order in limited overs cricket, Ed Pollock has had his moments but an ODI batting average that once exceeded forty has declined dramatically. He recently compiled a ninth ODI century to feast following famine!

Players such as Ed Barnard, Ryan Higgins, Saqib Mahmood, Feroze Khushi and Jack Plom are amongst those to have remained part of the squad over time and had their moments in the sun.

Cricket Captain 2018: No Target is out of Reach!

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When you chase down 390 two Test matches in a row…

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The year is 2031 and Brad Taylor is an integral part of the England side!

In the first Test in Zimbabwe, there were scores of 92 in each innings from captain Max Holden. The skipper now has in excess of 10,000 Test runs to his name and one eye on Alastair Cook’s national record.

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In the second Test, there was a five-wicket haul for pace bowler Josh Tongue, another undefeated innings from gloveman Jonny Tattersall and a rather fluctuating performance from the hosts’ spinner Brandon Mavuta. As if Holden’s pair of 92s wasn’t freaky enough, Mavuta claimed outstanding figures of 8-82 in the first innings but woeful analysis of 2-164 in the second. That’s the wickets quartered but the runs doubled… freaky!

They’ll be a statistical update shortly with Max Holden, Sam Hain and Ollie Pope’s run-getting as well as Matthew Parkinson’s 600 plus Test wickets particular highlights!

Cricket Captain 2018: Suggestions for 2019

In previous versions of Cricket Captain, I’ve flirted a little with Career Mode at domestic level but on the 2018 version, I’ve focused exclusively on my England Career (International Only). I think it’s relevant that I point that out and that the following suggestions are based on my experiences of playing the game in that way…

County Championship Averages Separated by Division.

Having this as a filter option would be a really useful tool when selecting the England team. Obviously runs and wickets etc scored in division one are a better indication of a player’s ability to adjust to Test cricket than contributions made in division two. The same split could be applied where appropriate in the domestic competitions of other countries as well, for example: I think that Sri Lanka has three tiers in First Class cricket.

Women’s Cricket

Even if it would be too much to ask for a full Women’s career mode to be implemented, surely World Cups and Custom Series could be playable options. All that is required are the names of women and maybe some long hair where appropriate. Career records are of course a pre-requisite.

Player Editor

In the early versions of the game, you could at least change a player’s name, I think that the players even had pen pics. It would be great if you could create a player from scratch,  choose their name, age, batting/bowling hand/style, nationality, ethnicity, at the very least their hair colour/style and maybe even which team they begin their career with. You could then for example play an England career, make yourself captain and follow your performances as you soar the run/wicket charts as the years go by. If you could edit as many as twenty players then you could even make up your entire national side out of friends and family.

Stop Early Retirements

I appreciate that early retirements happen (e.g. Fabian Cowdrey) but Delray Rawlins has disappeared from the last two versions of the game aged about 21. In the previous version he did this despite the fact that he had been capped in ODIs. What’s additionally weird about this is that in my current game, there are players that are as old as 36 who have never even played a domestic game but they can still be selected for England!

Squad Injury Replacements

If a player gets injured on tour, it’d be great if you could be provided the option to call-up a replacement. It’d also be good if even when playing at home, occasionally a player might get injured on the morning of a match, so in a Test match for example, your options would drop from thirteen to twelve.

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A-Teams

Tying into the injury replacement, it would be hugely beneficial to have A-Teams/England Lions squads in the game. You could have three options:

  1. Select and play
  2. Select and simulate
  3. Auto select and simulate

This would be hugely beneficial during winter tours when it can be difficult to get the best out of players that are out of form.

More Tour Matches

The tour match feature is half-baked, it’s an unreal element of a game that’s good because it seems real! It would be really helpful for the same reason as mentioned previously. When players are out of form on winter tours you need some way to get them back into form. Currently some tours have warm-up matches and some don’t. If gamers don’t want to play them they can simulate them or, similar to my A-Team suggestion, it could be an option at the start of a career to either have them in your game or not.

Breakdown of Dismissals

Let’s say that my best bowler has taken 500 Test wickets. I’d like to know how many were  bowled, how many were LBW, how many were stumped etc. Also, it’d be great to know how many left to right handers have been dismissed by the bowler. This information could be presented in pie chart form similar to some of the graphics already in the game. Similar stats would be welcome for batsmen too. How many times have they been dismissed caught etc, how many times have they been dismissed by a left-arm bowler or by a spin bowler. This information could be used when selecting a team.

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Cap Number

In each player’s personal section, it could list which cap number the player is in each format. In Player Records it would be great if you could arrange each match Type (Test/ODI/T20I) by cap number.

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Jack Leach to be Bald!

As it says on the tin, Jack Leach to be bald.

Captaincy Record

It’d be great for a record to be kept of how many matches you’ve played in each format and how many you’ve won and lost. If this was also recorded for each player in the game as well as the gamer then that’d be great. What I mean by that is that there’s an overall record for me playing the game but if for example I’ve had Max Holden and Sam Hain both captain my Test side, I can see their individual captaincy records by format.

Medium Difficulty Level

Currently, the only difficulty levels are Easy and Normal. I’ll be honest, I don’t exactly dominate at Easy level and based on previous experience the less said about hard the better. Having three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard could really help some gamers stick with the game.

Have you played Cricket Captain recently or in seasons past? Do you have any viable suggestions to enhance the game without compromising its core qualities?

Cricket Captain 2018: 1007 all out!

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If I remember correctly, the year is 2027 and despite our white-ball (ODI/T20I) woes, we sit third in the Test rankings. A national record 1007 all out against West Indies went some way to erasing the pain of the infamous 43 all out debacle against Pakistan a few years ago.

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Poor Ollie Pope, he compiled a career best 279, only to be outshone by stand-in skipper Sam Hain (382) in their record-breaking third-wicket combo of 629.

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Hain’s 382 was not only the highest innings of my tenure, surpassing injured captain Max Holden’s 307 not out but was in fact the highest Test score ever by an Englishman. Hain overtook Sir Len Hutton’s 364 but fell short of Brian Lara’s Test record of 400 not out.

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Saqib Mahmood (6-134) led the way as we bundled the visitors out twice inside two days. Hain (6296 @ 54.75, 21/20) and Pope (5457 @ 47.45, 18/19) continue to dominate Test cricket. Joe Clarke (5159 @ 40.30, 10/25) is finally fulfilling his potential at Test level while captain Max Holden (5506 @ 55.62, 12/30) is another to have surpassed 5000 Test runs. On the bowling front, leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson (427 @ 23.19) has his eyes firmly set on 500 if not 600 Test wickets!

Cricket Captain 2018: 2024-25 Season Review

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New Zealand in England

Tests: Drew 1-1

ODIs: Lost 4-1

T20I: Won 1-0

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South Africa in England

ODIs: Lost 3-0

T20Is: Lost 3-0

Tests: Won 3-2 (Including captain Max Holden’s epic 307 not out as per the image above!)

T20I World Cup

Won all three Qualifying matches but lost all four Super Ten matches!

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England in Zimbabwe

Test: Won 1-0 (Courtesy of the epic comeback detailed in the image above!)

ODIs: Won 3-0

T20I: Won 1-0

England in Pakistan

Tests: Lost 2-1

ODIs: Lost 4-1

T20I: Lost 1-0

Cricket Captain 2018: Test is Best but One Day we won’t be Limited!

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To be honest, I’ve forgotten what year it was and have also tried to forget nearly all our limited overs performances!

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Somewhere and somehow, Somerset’s Craig Overton claimed astonishing analysis of 4-0-6-2 in a T20 International. Unfortunately his twin brother Jamie hasn’t been able to back-up an impressive start to his international career which included figures of 6-14 against Australia in a ODI a few years back. He’s failed to take a wicket in three T20I appearances to date.

There was another T20I World Cup, we didn’t win but we did at least win the Ashes in Australia. Against a home side that changed their openers more often that their players changed their underwear as well as constantly shuffling their middle order, we sealed a 3-1 (Or was it just 2-1?) series win. The less said about Will Pucovski’s batting for the hosts the better but he’s welcome to play against us anytime!

Following the euphoria of Ashes success, we took an experimental side to the West Indies and having won the first match comfortably, subsided to defeat in the second by a margin somewhere in the region of 500 runs!

The new season commences with a three-match home Test series against everybody’s second favourite team, New Zealand. Alastair Cook, who performed admirably in Australia and reached the epic milestone of 200 Tests when playing in the fifth and final Test before being rested for the tour of West Indies is again omitted. Haseeb Hameed has come of age and Max Holden will debut alongside him at the top of the order. Sam Hain who replaced James Vince in the Caribbean, maintains his place. Joe Root will continue to skipper the Test side at number four while Ollie Pope keeps Joe Clarke out at number five. Clarke will be disappointed to have fallen for so many forties in recent times. Still only tweny-five, his time will come again but for now he will be better served playing the domestic game. Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins, who swashbuckled 97 not out on Test debut in the fifth Ashes Test will bat at six. Jonny Bairstow keeps the gloves at seven while the new Broad and Anderson, Jamie Porter and Ben Coad, will each hope to reach 100 Test wickets during the series. They’ll be backed up by the ever-improving Josh Tongue and Matthew Parkinson (159 Test wickets to his name) is our sole spinner.